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Hardcore wader has much info to share

By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002

If Jack Pribyl has free time, you can bet he'll be wading an oyster bed, a dock line or a mangrove shoreline in southern Pinellas County.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Pribyl has learned the ins and outs of his stomping grounds. He has made friends with people who live near prime fishing spots in his neighborhood, and they grant him access to these holes. Some even allow him to use their canoes or kayaks.

Most of the time he'd rather get his feet wet.

"People always think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence," Pribyl says. "Nothing could be further from the truth. If people would take the time to learn the areas close to where they live, they can catch as many fish as they want right in their own back yards."

He stocks himself with an overstuffed fanny pack full of tackle. His typical outfit is a light-action, 7-foot rod paired with a light spinning reel, normally filled with 8-pound line. Nothing fancy, just practical.

Pribyl is hard to recognize wading because he wears a sombrero-style, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a bandanna around his neck to keep the sun off. He says all the clothing keep the sun off, but it may be more of an attempt at fishing incognito.

Whatever he wears, it doesn't bother the fish. He has caught as many as 30 snook in an evening, all on artificials, all before bedtime. He didn't have to spend all night on the water, just a couple of hours after dinner.

Not long ago he caught a 38-inch snook. His goal is a 40-incher, and knowing him, he'll reach it.

He introduced me to a spot where redfish tailed in a hole no larger than a swimming pool. The water was less than 3 feet deep, and we caught redfish after redfish. We laughed all morning at our success.

If you want to learn to catch fish like Pribyl, all you have to do is register for his saltwater fishing class.

For 15 years, on just about every Tuesday night, Pribyl has taught the class at Lakewood Community School in St. Petersburg.

An educator by trade, Pribyl combines his love for fishing with an ability to inform in an unforgettable nine-week course. Pribyl is a natural, and it shows.

Anyone who has taken the class would quickly agree: Pribyl knows his stuff, and he isn't afraid to pass it along. And that includes some of his private honey holes. The 40-inch snook on the wall in my office is testament to that.

Pribyl covers a variety of topics from fish identification to hands-on instruction on throwing a cast net. He guarantees if a student isn't satisfied with the course, he'll refund the tuition. Many students come away feeling they got their money's worth the first night.

The course costs $54. Pribyl breaks the 27 hours into three a night, from 6-9.

His native connections pay off with many high-profile anglers speaking to his class, such as tarpon and kingfish guru Larry Mastry. Mastry is a legend who co-owns Mastry's Tackle with brother Dale and has plenty of information to pass along.

And Pribyl has connections with the Department of Natural Resources, from which he obtains pamphlets. One that is particularly useful is the Boater's Guide to Tampa Bay, a complete map of Tampa Bay that includes grass flats and mangrove shorelines around the bay. It also includes water depth and shows the shipping channels.

For more information on Pribyl's class, call Lakewood Community School at (727) 893-2955.

MACKEREL TOURNAMENT: Many anglers have spent the summer charting hot spots in Tampa Bay and the gulf. Saturday is the time to see if the work paid off at Billy's Stone Crab Big Mack Attack Spanish mackerel tournament. The captain's meeting is 6 p.m. Friday. The weigh-in is at 3-4 p.m. Saturday. Call (727) 866-2115 or (727) 542-3900.

-- Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report. Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land and want to share it with readers, contact the LUBBERLINE at (727) 893-8775 or captrick@luckydawg.com.

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